All this happened more than a decade ago.
On the afternoon before Chinese New Year's Day I went to visit a friend in the suburbs of Chongqing. She lived on the top floor of the village office building. A flight of dark, narrow stairs led to a room where a table and several bamboo stools stood and a telephone hung on the wall. Beyond this room, separated by a mere cloth curtain, was the room where my friend lived. She had gone out, leaving a note on the desk by the window saying that she had been called away unexpectedly and wanted me to wait for her to come back.
I sat down at her desk, picked up a newspaper and started reading. Suddenly I heard the wooden door of the outside room open with a squeak. Shortly after, I heard someone moving a bamboo stool. I lifted the curtain and looked, only to find a small girl of about eight or nine. She had a pale thin face, and her lips were frozen purple because of the cold. Her hair was cut short and she was dressed in worn-out clothes. She wore no socks, only a pair of straw sandals. She was climbing onto the bamboo stool, trying to get hold of the receiver; but she quickly withdrew her hand as if startled at the sight of me. I asked her, Do you want to make a phone call? Yes, she nodded as she climbed off the stool, I want to call the hospital. I want Dr Hu. Mum has just spat up a lot of blood! Do you know the phone num­ber? I asked. She shook her head and said, I was just going to ask the Tele­phone Service for it .... I immediately looked in the directory beside the telephone and soon found the number. Then I asked her again; If I get the doctor where should I tell him to go? Just tell her Wang Chunlin's wife is ill, and she will come, she replied.
I made the phone call and got through to the doctor. The girl gratefully thanked me and turned to leave straight away. I stopped her and asked, Is your home far from here? Just down in the valley, under the big yellow fruit tree, she told me, pointing outside the window. It takes only a couple of minutes to get there. With these words, she clattered downstairs.
Returning to my friend's room I read the newspaper from cover to cover, then picked up the Three Hundred Tang Poems and went through half of it. It was getting more and more overcast outside, yet there was no sign of my friend. Bored, I stood up, looked out the window, and watched the hazy mountain scenery in the thick fog. I spotted the small hut under the yellow fruit tree, and suddenly got the idea that I should visit the little girl and her sick mother. I went downstairs, bought a few big oranges from the hawker at the door, put them into my handbag, and walked along the uneven slabstone path down to the hut.
I knocked softly on the wooden door. The young girl I had met just now answered. Seeing me, she was a little tak­en aback at first, but soon began to smile and beckoned me in. On the plank bed against the wall her mother was lying on her back, her eyes closed. She must have gone to sleep. There were blood stains spattered on the bedclothes round her neck. Her face was turned to the wall, and I could only see tangled wisps of hair across her face and the coil at the back of her head. There was a small charcoal stove by the door, and on it a small, simmering casserole. The girl bade me sit down on the foot-stool in front of the stove, she herself squatting be­side me, sizing me up. Has the doctor been? Yes, she gave Mum an injection .... She's quite OK now. Then she added, as if to console me, Don't worry. The doctor will come again in the morn­ing . Has your mum eaten anything? What's in here? I asked, pointing to the casserole. She smiled, and replied, It's yam porridge, our New Year's Eve din­ner . I suddenly remembered the oranges I had brought with me. I took them out and put them on the bedside table. The girl said nothing, just quietly reached her hand out for the biggest one. She cut the peel off the top with a knife, and deftly peeled the rest of the orange with her fingers.
Who else lives here with you? I asked her in a low voice. No one else right now. My dad went somewhere,... she did not finish. She slowly took out the orange segments and laid them beside her mother's pillow.
The tiny fire in the stove gradually died down, and it was getting dark out­side. I stood up to go. The little girl held me back, quickly and deftly took out a big needle with a linen thread and worked at the bowl-shaped orange peel. She linked the opposite corners in such a way as to make a small basket, which she hung on a thin bamboo stick. She then took the stub of a candle from the windowsill, placed it in the orange peel basket, and lit it. When she had done all this, she handed the lamp to me, saying, It's dark now, and the road is slippery. Let this little orange lamp light the way for you up the mountain.
I accepted the lamp with admira­tion, and thanked her. She came out to see me off. I did not know what to say. Again, as if to console me, she spoke. Dad will soon come back. Then Mum will be well. She drew a circle in the air with her small hand, and then pressed it on mine, and said, Then, we will all be well. Obvi­ously, her all included me.
Holding this ingeniously-made little lamp, I walked slowly up the dark, wet mountain path. In truth, the dim or­ange light could not reach very far. Howev­er, the little girl's calmness and courage, and her optimism, made me feel as though the way in front of me was boundlessly illu­minated.
My friend had come back. Seeing me with the little orange lamp, she asked me where I had been. I told her, I've been to ... to Wang Chunlin's. She was astonished. Wang Chunlin, the carpen­ter? How did you come to know him? Some students from the medical college down at the foot of the mountain were arrested last year. Later, Wang Chunlin disappeared. It was said that he had often carried messages for those students ...
I left the mountain village that night, and have not heard of the little girl and her mother since.
But I recall the little orange lamp every Chinese New Year. Twelve years have passed. Her father must have come back long ago, and her mother got well. For we are all well now.

我在她桌前坐下,随手拿起一张报纸来看,忽然听见外屋板门吱地一声开了。过了一会,又听见有人在挪动那竹凳子。我掀开帘子,看见一个小姑娘,只有八九岁光景,瘦瘦的苍白的脸,冻得发紫的嘴唇,头发很短,穿一身很破旧的衣裤,光脚穿一双草鞋,正在登上竹凳想去摘墙上的听话器,看见我似乎吃了一惊,把手缩了回来。我问她:“你要打电话吗?”她一面爬下竹凳,一面点头说:“我要×× 医院,找胡大夫,我妈妈刚才吐了许多血!”我问:“你知道××医院的电话号码吗?”她摇了摇头说:“我正想问电话局……”我赶紧从机旁的电话本子里找到医院的号码,就又问她:“找到了大夫,我请他到谁家去呢?”她说:“你只要说王春林家里病了,她就会来的。”
我把电话打通了,她感激地谢了我,回头就走。我拉住她问:“你的家远吗?” 她指着窗外说:“就在山窝那棵大黄果树下面,一下子就走到的。”说着就登、登、登地下楼去了。
小桔灯 炉火的微光,渐渐地暗了下去,外面更黑了。我站起来要走,她拉住我,一面极其敏捷地拿过穿着麻线的大针,把那小桔碗四周相对地穿起来,像一个小筐似的,用一根小竹棍挑着,又从窗台上拿了一段短短的洋蜡头,放在里面点起来,递给我说:“天黑了,路滑,这盏小桔灯照你上山吧!”
我的朋友已经回来了,看见我提着小桔灯,便问我从哪里来。我说:“从…… 从王春林家来。”她惊异地说:“王春林,那个木匠,你怎么认得他?去年山下医学院里,有几个学生,被当做共产党抓走了,以后王春林也失踪了,据说他常替那些学生送信……”